The remarkable history
of naval aviation
Putting aeroplanes onto ships transformed naval warfare as radically as the gun and the steam engine. Naval vessels could now be protected from the air and targets many miles from the ship could be reached. The Royal Navy, bastion of comfortable tradition, had suddenly become the pioneer of a revolutionary new approach to warfare, ushering in an era of huge technological innovation and individual courage as the challenge of landing aircraft on ships at sea was confronted.
Operating aircraft in harsh maritime environments also led to an ethos of overcoming problems with practical and often ingenious solutions. The Royal Navy led the way in technological innovation: catapults and arrester wires on ships’ decks, the mirror landing sight, the angled flight deck, the ski-jump and ultimately the Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing (V/STOL) Sea Harrier.